Daily Egyptian

Saluki football still in search of first MVFC win as Homecoming approaches

SIU+Fooball+head+coach+Nick+Hill+talks+to+members+of+the+Saluki+football+team+after+their+first+fall+scrimmage%2C+Saturday%2C+Aug.+11%2C+2017%2C+at+Saluki+Stadium.+%28Brian+Mu%C3%B1oz+%7C+%40BrianMMunoz%29
SIU Fooball head coach Nick Hill talks to members of the Saluki football team after their first fall scrimmage, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

SIU Fooball head coach Nick Hill talks to members of the Saluki football team after their first fall scrimmage, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

SIU Fooball head coach Nick Hill talks to members of the Saluki football team after their first fall scrimmage, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Nathan Dodd

After falling to 0-2 in Missouri Valley Football Conference play last Saturday, SIU football turns its attention to a Homecoming match-up against the Illinois State University Redbirds.

No. 15 ISU travels to Carbondale with a 4-1 overall record and will try to remain unbeaten in MVFC play, as they come into Saturday’s matchup 2-0 in conference matchups.

The Redbirds field a stout defense that ranks second in the MVFC in points allowed to opponents. Teams facing ISU are only averaging 14.4 points per game in 2017.

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“Illinois State has a great defense, one of the best ones that we’ve seen,” Saluki head coach Nick Hill said at his weekly press conference. “Coach [Brock] Spack does a great job with those guys. A lot of guys are back from a really good defense last year. The linebackers are different, but up front and in the secondary they’re pretty much the same.”

For SIU, turnovers have to be limited to have success against a strong ISU defense. On offense, ball protection starts with junior starting quarterback Sam Straub, who has thrown two interceptions in each of the last two contests.

“You have to have a short memory, whether it’s a game or a bad series,” Hill said. “It starts in practice. You have to have that connection; you have to have that timing. You have to strive to be perfect during the week. We have to do a better job of doing that throughout the week, and it will carry over on Saturday.”

Hill, a former SIU quarterback, preached how important it is for Straub to be efficient in order to run a successful offense.

“Completing 50 percent of your passes is not a winning formula,” the Saluki coach said. “We have to get that changed. That’s my job as a coach. Sam knows that and we have full confidence in doing that. Some of that is on us, giving him some things to get him in a rhythm. We also have to be accurate with the football. When we have the throws, we have to make them. We have to complete it at a higher percentage. Our goal is 65 percent, and we’re not close to that. We still have six more games to go. For us to start winning some of these games, we have to complete a higher percentage of throws.”

In last weekend’s game at South Dakota State University, neither the SIU offense nor defense was able to get a leg-up on the Jackrabbits — losing the game 49-14 after only two field goals prevented the Salukis from winning the 2016 matchup between the two squads.

“They [SDSU] just dominated the football game in every area,” Hill said. “That’s up-front, in the secondary. The few things we got going we didn’t sustain. They beat us in every area, and you have to tip your cap to them. They’re a good football team. But I know we have a better football team than what we showed on Saturday. It’s our job to go prove that. We can talk about it, but we have to go out there and get it done.”

The SIU Homecoming game against Illinois State will take place at Saluki Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff for the contest is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Sports reporter Nathan Dodd can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @NathanMDodd.

To stay up to date with all your SIU sports news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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